Georgia's new PM, integration to the EU, strategic cooperative relations with Armenia - Georgian pundit Gia Nodia EXPLAINS

Interviews 16:30 13.02.2024

Ednews presents an interview with Minister of Education and Science of Georgia, head of the Caucasian Peace Institute, political scientist Gia Nodia:

-    What does the newly appointed prime minister of Georgia promise to the region?

-   As concerns our newly appointed prime minister, Mr. Irakli Kobakhidze, nobody in Georgia expects any policy changes. I think that is a kind of reshuffle within the ruling team, which depends on the real leaders within Ivanishvili’s trust towards this or another of the Georgian Dream leading figures. So he decided that at this point. Irakli Kobakhidze as a prime minister would be more comfortable for him. But it does not mean at all that we expect from Kobakhidze something different than we expected from Irakli Garibashvili, his predecessor.

-  After many years, Georgia has finally obtained the status of an EU candidate country. But how long do you think it will take for Georgia to become a full member of this organization? 

-   Candidate status itself was an important achievement for the country, but also for its government. However, I don't think that any new developments in this direction are to be expected, especially until the parliamentary elections in October this year. If Georgian Dream stays in power, I don't think we'll have any fast progress on the way of EU integration. Even though our government says that they plan for Georgia to become a full member of the European Union in 2030. Theoretically, that's possible, but it depends on two factors. One, what will be the mood in the European Union? What will be the developments? How the Ukraine war will continue and end. That's a very important factor. I mean, the decision is to be made by the European Union, but on the other hand, it depends on the will of the Georgian government, on the Georgian government making its priority to join the European Union and carry out necessary reforms. I don't think that the Georgian Dream government has that political will, but we'll see how things develop.

-   Georgia and Armenia recently signed a strategic partnership agreement. What does this mean for Tbilisi?

-  Strategic partnership is I think very general term. It may mean different things, but signing this agreement on a strategic partnership between Georgia and Armenia means that Georgia recognizes the special importance of Armenia in its foreign policy, which is obvious anyway because Armenia is our neighbor. So Georgia has always been interested in neighborly good relations with Armenia. Now it's called strategic partnership. But I don't think that this new term is changing anything in essence. Because Georgia has strong relations with Azerbaijan, strong relations with Türkiye, now strengthening strong relations with China, also wants to show that relations with Armenia are considered an important priority as well.

-  Armenia does not dare to leave under the “warm wing” of Russia, but at the same time, it does not stop blackmailing Moscow with statements about leaving the CSTO. Why is Moscow waiting so patiently?

-  Armenian foreign policy towards Russia. It's obvious that Armenia is looking towards current Armenian leadership, and is looking towards possibilities to change its foreign policy orientation. Its over-dependence on Russia did not pay off as we all saw. So it wants to be closer to the West and it considers Georgia's status as a European Union membership candidate, somehow giving it a better chance so that Georgia may serve as a bridge for Armenia to develop closer cooperation with the EU. But of course, it cannot fully drop its relations with Russia as well. Because Russia has deep roots in Armenia and now cannot change its dependence on Russia overnight. There is a Russian military base in Armenia and so on. So Armenia in that sense, is in a difficult position. So why Russia doesn't punish Armenia more severely? Okay. It's busy in Ukraine. That's quite an obvious explanation. And despite Pashinyan’s changing political priorities, it also believes that Pashinyan cannot do too much unless Armenia normalizes its relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey, which is possible. And then Russia would lose lots of its leverage over Armenia, but it would still have important economic and military leverage. So it's interesting, of course, how Armenian-Russian relations will develop, but at this point, Russia is preoccupied with Ukraine and it cannot focus on Armenia.

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